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Activated sludge bulking control in wastewater treatment plants with usage of rotifers (Rotifera)

An unfavourable phenomenon of excessive growth of filamentous bacteria in wastewater treatment plants, and possible methods of its control has been studied since the seventies of the last century. The problem has been persistent, and only in the last two decades some practical solutions of containing the sludge bulking, have been developed and employed, with moderate success, in treatment plants. These methods rely on using various chemical compounds, and are both: far from perfect and costly. The search for other, inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and efficient methods of controlling the growth of filamentous bacteria in wastewater treatment plants continues.

The investigations carried out in our laboratory for several years showed distinct relationship between the high density of rotifers and reduced growth of filamentous bacteria. Results of our experiments open a possibility of developing a novel, biological method of controlling the bulking of activated sludge. The method would involve exploiting trophic interactions between organisms naturally occurring in activated sludge.

Institute of Environmental Sciences of Jagiellonian University in co-operation with the University's Centre for Innovations, Technology Transfer and University Development (CITTRU) won PLN 2.5 million funding for research and development work within the framework of the Programme Innovative Economy (Measure 1.3.1 Support for R&D projects for entrepreneurs carried out by scientific entities. Development projects).

Project entitled: “Control of the bulking of activated sludge using rotifers (Rotifera)” UDA‑POIG.01.03.01-12-176/09-00 will be carried out throughout the period of 2010-2012. The following institutions joined the consortium:

  • The University of Warmia and Mazury, Olsztyn, Poland,
  • several wastewater treatment plants in southern and north-eastern Poland,
  • The University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain,
  • I.I. Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine

The initial work has concentrated on taking samples of activated sludge from different wastewater treatment plants. From these samples, strains of rotifers effectively restricting the growth of filamentous bacteria are being isolated. Later, our work will focus on developing an optimal method of mass-culturing the most efficient of those strains.

In the next step we will be testing, under laboratory conditions, the influence of various kinds of food, as well as of temperature and oxygen saturation on the reproduction of rotifers representing various strains. Further stages of the research will focus on the resistance of rotifers to toxic substances, which may periodically or permanently occur in wastewater.

Another important task would be testing the influence exerted by the rotifers on the physical and chemical parameters of purified wastewater and on the sludge volume index.

The ultimate goal of the project is the development of procedures and equipment, which would allow directly controlling the sludge bulking in wastewater treatment plants by inoculating the sludge with rotifer cultures.


Project co-financed by the European Union in a frame of Innovative Economy Program (2007-2013)

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